Aintree’s Grand National meeting is upon us. Though Saturday’s big race is looming, Thursday’s card is full of tremendous racing, including four Grade 1s. Racing Tips have a selection in each of the seven races alongside Paddy Power‘s through the card offer for the day of Bet £10 Get £60 In Free Bets for the rest of the card.
Erne River (1.45, Manifesto Novices’ Chase)
Arkle fourth War Lord has shaped as though he will appreciate a step up in trip on recent starts and the Tizzards could not have dreamed for a better opportunity in Grade 1 company.
However, the Arkle was the second time he has been readily found out at the highest level and it might be worth taking him on with a more upwardly mobile opponent. ERNE RIVER only made his chase debut in January, but won that impressively at Doncaster before following up impressively under a penalty at Wetherby.
He is now four from five under rules, meaning he has been both prolific, but freshly trained by Nick Kent. The seven-year-old beat Minella Drama in a point-to-point too, so he has form in various codes.
He will not be ground dependent and this is an extremely open race for this grade. Those who have competed in the top tier in this field so far have been soundly beaten, so the inexperienced horse may well triumph.
Pied Piper (2.20 Anniversary 4-y-o Juvenile Hurdle)
Try as you like to find an alternative angle to take on the top two, it really is extremely difficult to do so.
Petit Tonnerre may be interesting and Fautinette is worth a look on debut, but both PIED PIPER and Brazil have such vastly better form than any of their British based opposition here. What is more difficult is splitting that pair.
Gordon Elliott’s stable form has been newsworthy in being far below his usual standard recently. However, Pied Piper has the best form in the book, winning hard on the bridle at Cheltenham on Trials Day before a solid third to Vauban in the Triumph Hurdle at the Festival last month.
Brazil’s win in the Boodles, while impressive in defeating the highly-touted Gaelic Warrior, did have a touch of fortune about it and he does have to step up against a genuine top quality rival here. That said, he is not passed over lightly.
Conflated (2.55 Betway Bowl)
It is now two spills in five starts this season for CONFLATED, but in between his jumping has arguably won the day during his two successes.
He started this season in low-key fashion, unseating in the Kerry National before heavy ground saw him cede advantage to Eklat De Rire at Wexford. However, he was a ready winner back on a yielding surface at Navan next time out before stepping up to Grade 1 level in some style.
Perfectly positioned by Davy Russell in the Irish Gold Cup, Conflated cruised clear to defeat Cheltenham Gold Cup winner and runner-up Minella Indo. His low technique worked wonders that day, but under the pressure of trying to close on the mighty Allaho, he buckled on landing at the second last at Prestbury Park.
He is forgiven that in calmer waters here, and the extended trip is not seen as a problem on this flatter track. His Leopardstown win is the peak form in this field in 2021/22.
Epatante (3.30 Aintree Hurdle)
Brewin’upastorm is a big danger to EPATANTE and Zanahiyr having skipped Cheltenham, as well as having won over course and distance already this season.
However, it was difficult not to feel underwhelmed by his defeat in the National Spirit Hurdle at Fontwell to a rank outsider last time out. Therefore, the Champion Hurdle principles continue to hold sway.
Epatante gets the narrow verdict. She has always possessed a healthy turn-of-foot and most of her half-siblings have been better at around 2m4f. Similarly, though the margin between her and Zanahiyr was just a length at Cheltenham, Nicky Henderson’s mare may well have pushed Honeysuckle very close but for completely fluffing her lines at the last.
Gordon Elliott’s five-year-old has shaped like a stayer for a while, but has regularly found at least one too good and may do so here as well.
Cousin Pascal (4.05 Foxhunters’ Chase)
It’s easy to see why Jett has been so well supported. Ridden by Sam Waley-Cohen, an expert over this course in this race, he ran superbly in last year’s Grand National, bowling along in front for most of the way.
A repeat effort would make him a formidable opponent, but he lacks experience in this sphere and was soundly enough beaten last time out. Instead, preference is for the defending champion in COUSIN PASCAL.
He caused a 66/1 shock a year ago, but has backed that up with two victories since, one in a point-to-point and one at Haydock in February. He beat Bob And Co that day, which is very useful form, while he nearly conceded weight all round in a decent race for this level at Hereford in January too.
His price has probably benefited from a disappointing display at Cheltenham, but we know from last year that he appreciates this course and is a very sound each-way prospect.
Sky Pirate (4.40 Red Rum Handicap Chase)
He may still be top weight, but SKY PIRATE has drifted back down to an alluring mark. He has largely run well this season too.
The nine-year-old was racing on heavy ground for the first time when well down the field in defending his Grand Annual crown. Similarly, he was attempting to give 4lb to Champion Chase runner-up Funambule Sivola in the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase at Newbury before that and was far from disgraced in doing so.
He was also second and fourth to Before Midnight, beaten fewer than six lengths each time, off a mark of 159 in two handicaps earlier this season. He is now 6lb below that mark and conditions should suit him far better here.
He is just 1lb higher than for his Cheltenham Festival success a little over a year ago and this race is nowhere near that standard. The winning thread may well be rediscovered here.
Law Ella (5.15 Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race)
A win for Rosy Redrum would be very appropriate on the return of crowds to Aintree. Milton Harris has excelled with both his four-year-olds and bumper performers this term, but this is a competitive event.
Ireland have had two of the last three winners in this race, while runners from the nation filled the two places behind The Glancing Queen in 2019 too. Neither winner has represented one of the bigger stables and while Gavin Cromwell has had significant success in recent years, his yard would still be a tier of fame below the likes of Mullins and Elliott.
His LAW ELLA was an impressive winner of a mares’ bumper at Down Royal last month, easing clear for a 6½ length success. Comparing that form to others in this field is tricky, but it certainly marked her as a potentially useful individual.